Vienna | The Women of Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka

Place: Vienna, Country: Austria
The Women of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka
temporary exhibition
Lower Belvedere - Vienna
images courtesy of Belvedere - Vienna

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Vienna | A portrait of the early-20th century woman: Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka

How European art represented women at the turn of the twentieth century? The vision of woman that (almost all male) artists expressed in their works in a period that saw a fundamental change in the female image and social roles, was particularly interesting in those German-speaking countries, where the development of psychoanalysis originated and, therefore, the confrontation between traditionalists like Otto Weininger and theorists of the gender parity was particularly harsh.
Furthermore, the early-20th century was a period when the “angelical” image of women in art was undermined by the advent of the early “femme fatales” of silent films,  and controversial figures of antiheroines – real such as Mata Hari or fictional like Ibsen’s Nora – upset and fascinated the European society of the time.

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Now, the Belvedere in Vienna hosts an exhibition focusing on the depiction of women by three key-figures of the Austrian art scene at the turn of the century: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. Each of them presents similarities and differences in their vision of the matter, which often oscillated between a maternal and a sexually-provoking depiction of females, somehow reverberating the analogous dilemma that was distressing the Viennese society at the end of the Belle Epoque.

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From the top: “The Women of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka”
installation views: Photo: Eva Würdinger, © Belvedere, Vienna

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Egon Schiele, Reclining woman with green stockings, 1917
Guache and black coal on paper, 29.4 x 46 cm
Private Collection © Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York

The exhibition is divided into four thematic and chronological sections.
Portraiture illustrates the different approaches by the three painter to female portraits, with the sumptuous, almost byzantine, figures by Klimt counterposed to the corporeal, somehow troubled, depictions by Schiele and Kokoschka. Mothers and children shows an almost specular situation, with Klimt’s and Schiele’s nude and “sensual” mothers on one side and the the allegoric references to the Virgin Mary by Kokoschka on the other.
Couples focuses on how the three depicted lovers, in a more symbolic way Klimt, while in a sexually- oriented and emotional way Schiele and Kokoschka, thus clearly showing their Expressionist vision of the matter.
Finally, in the section dedicated to The Nude, the visions by all the three, although different, share the same disquietude about female identity; while, at the same time, they all acknowledge, perhaps unintentionally, the sexual freedom of the New Woman.

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Gustav Klimt, Fritza Riedler, 1906
Oil on canvas,153 x 133 cm
© Belvedere, Vienna

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Egon Schiele, The Embrace (Lovers II), 1917
Oil on canvas,100 x 170 cm
© Belvedere, Vienna

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Oskar Kokoschka, Martha Hirsch, 1909
Oil on canvas, 88 x 70 cm
Private Collection, © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/ Bildrecht, Vienna, 2015

The Women of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka
temporary exhibition
From October 22, 2015 to February 28, 2016
Lower Belvedere – Vienna

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“The Women of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka”
installation view: Photo: Eva Würdinger, © Belvedere, Vienna

All images courtesy of  Belvedere, Vienna


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Housed in a baroque complex, the Belvedere in Vienna is a leading Austrian art museum with famous works by Klimt, Schiele, and by the French Impressionists


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